How Eating Horseradish can be a Danger to Health

The raw grated root of the the Horseradish plant (Armoracia rusticana) is a condiment that is added to food to give it a pungent flavor. Horseradish is a perennial herb that has been used in food preparation for at least three thousand years.

In 2011 horseradish was named as Herb of the Year by the International Herb Association. It is “Generally Recognized As Safe,” but the dangers of eating raw horseradish in large amounts do need to be heeded. The chemicals that occur naturally in raw horseradish are toxic when too much is ingested, and can result in horseradish poisoning.

Horseradish provides vitamin C and has anti-microbial properties. It is also a diuretic and a stimulant. Small amounts of horseradish, grated from a young root, are quite harmless, and cooking the horseradish root will destroy all the toxins. However, as a condiment, grated horseradish is generally eaten raw.

Dangers of horseradish

According to Winchester Hospital, it has not yet been established how much horseradish is safe for pregnant women, young children, or for people with kidney disease. Horseradish will increase the flow of urine, so is best avoided by someone suffering from any type of kidney problem.

Large amounts of raw horseradish must be avoided during pregnancy. Occasionally eating a small amount while pregnant should not be a problem, but it is best avoided completely. Tincture of horseradish should not be used as a natural remedy during pregnancy, as this could result in a miscarriage.

Because of its stimulant qualities, raw horseradish is not suitable for children and should never be given to a child under the age of four. It should also be avoided by women who are breastfeeding.

Horseradish can increase irritation to the digestive tract, so it should be avoided by anyone with an ulcer, an irritable bowel, or any type of infection in the digestive tract.

Horseradish will slow down an already under-active thyroid, and could make the condition worse, so it should be avoided by anyone with hypothyroidism.

Horseradish poisoning

Symptoms of horseradish poisoning include extreme sweating, nausea and vomiting, pain in the abdomen, upset stomach and diarrhea.  It can also produce feelings of disorientation and weakness.

Horseradish poisoning is not in itself fatal, but for someone with a serious health condition it could be life-threatening. 

Safe food preparation with horseradish

The horseradish plant is related to mustard, and the raw grated horseradish root provides fiery heat to cooked meats, salads and sandwiches. Horseradish also makes a good addition to dips and coleslaw. A simple horseradish sauce can be made by blending the freshly grated root with mayonnaise, and a greate paste can be made by mixing it with cream cheese.

Medicinal uses of horseradish

According to Kathryn J. Meloche, Ph.D., the chemical components of horseradish make it useful for regulating inflammation, and for the detoxification of carcinogens. Horseradish is used as an anti-cancer agent, as well as for treatment of rheumatism and asthmatic conditions. It contains beneficial antioxidants, and in the past it has been used as an aphrodisiac.

Small amounts of raw horseradish do have nutritional value and anti-bacterial properties. While horseradish is regarded as an effective herbal remedy, it is important to consider the dangers to health from too much raw horseradish.

Excessive amounts of raw horseradish may lead to poisoning, and is dangerous for pregnant women, children, and people with serious health issues. It is safe to consume horseradish root when it has been cooked, and for healthy adults the strong flavor of raw horseradish can be safely enjoyed, when it is used in small quantities as a condiment or an ingredient.